Why You Should Think Long Term to Overcome Immediate Setbacks

Published on: February 19, 2017

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“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hidden Lessons

It’s easier to obsess over setbacks, than to try to play the long game when it comes to life.

After all, obstacles are real while the future is promised to no one.

Disappointments have a way of overpowering you, however, they are just one aspect of your life. The key is to continually move forward and to not become caught up in your problems for too long.

You mustn’t allow what is taking place to overshadow your long-term plans. It was Henry Ford who said: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

Like buried treasure, opportunities are hidden in your setbacks if you are willing to look hard enough. Once the anxiety settles, you come to realise the real account emerges.

Life should be measured in its entirety, not by your failures. If you’re lucky enough, you will live a long life. So, avoid giving too much attention to your setbacks, since you are likely to bounce back from them.

Life should be measured in its entirety, not by your failures. So, avoid giving too much attention… Click To TweetThat is, don’t overstate what is taking place. We have a tendency towards a negativity bias which gets the better of us. Yes, your setbacks may be real, but you will overcome them to the best of your ability.

“If you can remember to look at your long-term goals, however, it will help you put setbacks into perspective,” affirms author Amy Morin in 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.

Move your awareness away from negativity and consider the long-term view.

What could be taking place behind the scenes that you are unaware of?

Is there is a hidden lesson contained within the setback?

Self-Control and Discipline

The value of adopting a long-term view is in not taking things too seriously because ultimately it will resolve itself if you are patient.

You must develop a clear picture of your intended future, instead of focusing on the setback.

Obstacles are part of every person’s life. Whilst they are difficult to deal with, they allow for vital personal growth for the journey ahead.

You must adopt self-control and discipline to think long-term.

No one knows what the future holds, but if you have a purposeful vision of what it might look like, you can overcome your short term pain.

“Failures, setbacks, bad luck, disasters; they are there to serve you, not hold you back. They toughen you up and drive you to improve. Frustration fuels growth. It gives you the energy and resolve to clean yourself up, get organized, fix what you can, and take the next step,” states author Larry Weidel in Serial Winner: 5 Actions to Create Your Cycle of Success.

Long-term thinking helps you appreciate that things will improve and you are never trapped in your present circumstances.

Time tests your inner resolve, your strength of character and your ability to withstand present conditions. Emotional growth occurs when you allow a situation to play out as it should.

It is difficult to take a long-term view because our minds are not accustomed to think far ahead. We are conditioned to deal with what is taking place now and typically have a limited view of tomorrow.

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”— Confucius

That comes at a cost to our wellbeing, because if we follow this script we are constantly putting out spot fires instead of working on larger goals.

To think long-term, develop an introspective outlook while reviewing your plans for the future.

Imagine Your Proposed Future

Take action however small, whether it be things such as self-reinforcement, affirmations or visualisations. Success is found in the smallest details.

In his book The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life, psychologist and professor at Stanford University, Philip Zimbardo, states there are six time paradoxes that shape our lives:

1.  Past-negative
2.  Past-positive
3.  Present-fatalistic
4.  Present-hedonistic
5.  Future
6.  Transcendental-future

If you wish to take an inventory of your time perspective, I encourage you to complete the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory test online.

Based on his principles, your relationship with time influences every aspect of your life. So if you dwell on the past, you are less likely to appreciate the present moment and plan for the future.

The key to long term thinking is to imagine your proposed future through the power of your imagination. Focus on the smaller destinations instead of the larger picture.

The key to long term thinking is to imagine your proposed future through the power of your… Click To TweetFor example, if your goal is to lose 10 kg (22 lbs) by the end of the year and you are suddenly injured (setback), this will make it difficult to exercise and adhere to your goal.

However, you could focus on the setback or what you can do during this period.

Use this time to fine-tune your nutritional habits by consuming fewer carbohydrates, owing to inactivity. Later, when you can exercise again you are likely to enhance your weight loss due to following sound nutritional habits.

“You need to change your self-talk in order to shift the story you’re telling yourself about setbacks and adversity. You need to seek the insight or wisdom in challenging moments,” affirms author Adam Markel in Pivot: The Art and Science of Reinventing Your Career and Life.

Focus on the Long Game

There is always some action to take however small, to move you forward towards your goals.

Long-term thinking is something I’ve followed throughout my adult life. Whilst others excelled in individual areas and gained immediate results, I focused on long-term outcomes.

I experience setbacks and obstacles like most others, yet I don’t allow it to consume me. When I find myself stuck in a situation, I consider it a minor speed hump in what is a long journey.

I enjoy author Whitney Johnson’s view in her book Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work: “As I have grappled with my own failures, and as I have watched others dealing with setbacks, I have observed several responses that seem to ameliorate failure, transforming it into a stepping-stone to future success.”

That is the framework of this entire piece — using your setbacks as a stepping stone for future success. It is what esteemed Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck calls developing a Growth Mindset.

“Dweck says it’s difficult to maintain confidence in a fixed mind-set without distorting the world, such as acting defensively or blaming someone or something else for setbacks,” says Peter Sims in Little Bets: How breakthrough ideas emerge from small discoveries.

To overcome a setback, recognise it as a minor process in what is a greater plan unfolding. Deal with what is taking place by all means, but use the lessons to develop a Growth Mindset.

In closing, I invite you to focus on the long game for your life.

That is where the fruit of your labour lies waiting for you to seize it, rather than dwell on your past mistakes.

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